“Jascha Heifetz: God’s Fiddler” is an 87-minute DVD, released
on the Kultur label during 2011. It’s a good, solid biographical
portrait of the man who is widely considered to be the greatest
violinist of the Twentieth Century.
Beginning with a discussion of his life as a child prodigy in Russia,
under the tutelage of Leopold Auer (1845-1930) among others,
the film chronicled his artistic development including his initial
performances in America, at the age of seventeen. Soon,
Heifetz (1901-1987) made America his permanent home,
and became a very patriotic naturalized citizen.
During the late 1930’s, he relocated from New York City to
Beverly Hills, and spent the remainder of his life based in
California. Expert commentary was provided by noted
musicians, including violinists Ida Haendel (1928 – ) and
Itzhak Perlman (1945 – ). Additional narrative was provided
by cellist Nathaniel Rosen, along with numerous Heifetz pupils.
The most prominent contribution to this film came from
Ayke Agus (1949 – ). A former Heifetz masterclass student,
she later served as his personal assistant and completed a
2001 memoir, Heifetz As I Knew Him.
Directed by Peter Rosen, this film was filled with archival
concert and informal footage, in black and white and color.
Thanks to a myriad amount of contributors and sources,
this disc provided a reasonably complete portrait of this
enigmatic artist. Prior to watching this DVD, I was unaware
that Heifetz had composed some popular songs under a
pseudonym, and this DVD contained footage of Bing Crosby
singing one of them! True to his patriotic beliefs, Heifetz
performed for the American troops during World War II.
What I observed was a man who had difficulty showing
warmth and emotion, particularly in his later years, yet
maintained the highest professional standards as a
performer and teacher. I highly recommend this thorough,